Friday, October 05, 2007

《三大学学生“关心缅甸和平”》/ "Local university students care about peace in Myanmar"

What follows below is a translation of this article from Lianhe Zaobao...

Yesterday, local university students, who are concerned about the current situation in Myanmar, held the "Myanmar Peace Awareness Day" in the campuses of 3 local universities as a means of acting to heighten local youths' awareness of the situation in Myanmar and to display their concern for the people of Myanmar.

These students appealed to their fellow students to sign a petition and encouraged them to wear either red ribbon strips and/or red armbands to display their disapproval of the Myanmar military government. A total of 984 signatures for the petition were collected. It is planned that the petition would be presented to both the Myanmar embassy and the ASEAN Secretariat office based in Jakarta.

Students from NTU, wearing T-shirts imprinted with the wording of "We Pursue Peace & Justice For Myanmar", set up a petition booth outside of a canteen yesterday. Besides handing out red armbands and information pamphlets which were printed in both the Burmese language and English, these students, desiring to allow their fellow students to know about the current Myanmar situation, also set up a noticeboard, on which they put up news articles about the Myanmar situation.

As for the NUS Bukit Timah campus, students there were also handing out red ribbon strips and flyers on campus. The Law Faculty students even held a discussion seminar and an indoor gathering on campus. The discussion seminar was attended by about 100 or more students and teaching staff. At the seminar, Michael Ewing-Chow, an Associate Professor of Law at NUS, spoke about his opinion about the Myanmar situation; local students and students from Myanmar also eagerly voiced their opinions.

It was suggested by students that since Singapore is the current chair of ASEAN, it should, as a way of applying pressure on the Myanmar military government, cut off trading and commercial relations with Myanmar. Some students from Myanmar also shared their personal experiences of unfortunate happenings back in their home country. Some of them even broke down into tears as they recounted their painful experiences. It was a tense atmosphere that was found at the seminar session.

Low-key activities at NUS Kent Ridge due to non-approval by university administration

In contrast, the activities at the NUS Kent Ridge campus was much more low-key. Most students were not wearing the event T-shirts and no petition booth was set up. A significat number of students there also did not know about the event beforehand and did not wear red ribbon strips.

According to one of the student organisers at Kent Ridge, they tried to apply to conduct official activities on campus but their application was not approved by the university administration. Hence, they could only conduct their activities in a more low-key manner.

However, on the other hand, Professor Tan Cheng Han, Dean of the NUS Law Faculty, expressed support for the activities held at the NUS Bukit Timah campus, where the Law Faculty is situated. Besides expressing approval of students being concerned about international current affairs, Professor Tan also said that he will, as a sign of support, wear a red ribbon strip himself.

At the SMU campus, about 100 or more local students and students from Myanmar held a candlelight vigil at the Li Ka Shing Library. These students initially planned to hold an outdoor vigil outside the ground floor of the library building but, after the school administration supposedly consulted the opinion of the police, it was decided to move the event indoors.

With regards to this, the police said that the SMU university administration enquired as to whether a permit was necessary for the vigil and since the vigil was to be a private event held indoors, there was no need to apply for a permit.

In the end, several SMU students, using lit candles, formed the words "Free Burma" near the library building.

When interviewed, one of the Myanmarese students attending the vigil said: "We want to let more of our schoolmates to know more about the situation in Myanmar, hence we originally intended to hold the vigil at a venue with greater human traffic. The event was later moved to the library building where fewer people attended the vigil. Thus, I hope to use this method to attract the attention of my schoolmates".

At the vigil, Assistant Professor Eugene Tan of the SMU Law School and a Myanmarese student also shared their personal feelings about the Myanmar situation. After that, a minute of silence was observed.

The abovementioned Myanmarese student said that when she closed her eyes during the one minute of silence, she thought the monks who were killed and the people whom were arrested. She added: "I am also worried about my family members back home. There is a rumour circulating amongst local Myanmarese students that if the Myanmar military government got wind of our involvement in such activities, it would perhaps cause our family members to end up in a precarious situation".

Seeing how local students were also in support of the event, Assistant Professor Tan felt greatly comforted. Nevertheless, he emphasised: "The university is a place where we are allowed to express and share opinions, thus students should not use this opportunity to stage a protest. For now, the most important thing is not to stage protests but to care about the situation in Myanmar and see how we can best help".

Mr. Choo Zhengxi, one of the student organisers behind the "Myanmar Peace Awareness Day" and a second year student at the NUS Faculty of Law, said that the Myanmar military government is currently using violent means to suppress the people of Myanmar and thus it is the aim of the organisers to use the event as a means to heighten local awareness of the situation in Myanmar and to express support for the people of Myanmar.

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